Fifty-seven per cent of graduates who completed their first degree in 2007 were satisfied with the quality of teaching, and another 38 per cent were very satisfied, according to a report released today, Jan. 18, by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. The report, Two Years On: A Survey of Class of 2007 Maritime University Graduates, report today, examines graduate satisfaction with education, further education trends, employment, and financial status, with a focus on those who completed their first degree in 2007. The survey also found that 34 per cent of graduates thought their program developed their skills of independent and critical thinking to some extent, while a 62 per cent thought these skills were developed to a great extent. “We asked our graduates about the extent to which their university program developed a number of core skills, and also their level of satisfaction with a number of aspects of their program,” said Mireille Duguay, chief executive officer of the commission. “The findings are telling us our graduates are transformed by their education, and that they are satisfied with the experience.” The class of 2003 graduates were equally satisfied. Six-in-10 Maritime university graduates who earned their first degree in 2007 opted to enrol in a second educational program within two years, a slight increase compared with class of 2003 graduates. However, the reasons remained the same, increasing employability or, to a lesser extent, self-improvement. Graduates of liberal arts and sciences programs were much more likely to go on for further study. By 2009, 73 per cent of first degree holders borrowed money to finance their education, including the 2007 degree or any further education. Graduates who borrowed relied on government, banks, family members and other sources, and borrowed an average of $37,013 by 2009, with one-third borrowing $45,000 or more. Compared with graduates of the class of 2003, Maritimers relied to the same extent on government student loans, but increased their reliance on other sources such as banks and borrowing from family members. By 2009, 20 per cent of those who borrowed to finance their first degree or further education still owed at least $45,000, while 21 per cent had repaid the whole amount. Compared with the class of 2003, the proportion owing at least $45,000 increased eight percentage points. The employment rate of class of 2007 first degree holders is down nine percentage points, compared with the Class of 2003 two years after graduation. “The class of 2007 was surveyed in the midst of an economic recession, which probably accounts for the decreased employment rate,” said Ms. Duguay. “However, it seems to be the only employment measure affected. The number employed full-time and in highly skilled jobs was about the same compared to four years earlier.” In 2009, first degree holders employed full-time earned over $43,000, which is above the earnings of the general population in the Maritimes. Maritime provinces are retaining about the same proportion of graduates compared with the class of 2003. Prince Edward Island retained 63 per cent of its residents, Nova Scotia 74 per cent and New Brunswick 71 per cent. Twenty-nine per cent of graduates who had originally come to study in the Maritimes from elsewhere in Canada or abroad, were still living in the Maritimes two years after graduating. The vast majority of graduates said the investment in their education was worthwhile. “Two years after graduation, 83 per cent of first degree holders said their university education was worth the time invested, and seven-in-10 said it was worth the financial investment,” said Ms. Duguay. Between Oct. 18, 2009 and Jan. 8, 2010, Ipsos Reid completed telephone interviews with 3,380 graduates from 16 universities in the Maritime region. The report analysis focuses on 1,702 first degree holders. The margin of error for findings from the weighted sample of 3,380 graduates is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20; for the sample of 1,702 first degree holders, the margin of error is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission was established in 1974 to assist institutions and governments in enhancing the post-secondary learning environment. The commission’s 20 members are drawn from the Maritime provinces, and represent higher education institutions, provincial governments and the general public.